Gulliver's Travels Summary and Analysis
Part I, Chapters V-VIII
"The Author by an extraordinary Stratagem prevents an Invasion. A high Title of Honour is conferred upon him. Embassadors arrive from the Emperor of Blefuscu, and sue for Peace. The Empress's Apartment on fire by an Accident; the Author instrumental in saving the rest of the Palace."
When the Lilliputians and Blefuscudians go to war, Gulliver proves to be very useful by dragging the entire Blefuscudian fleet of ships to the shore of Lilliput, where "The Emperor and his whole Court stood on the Shore expecting the Issue of the great Adventure." When Gulliver arrives, he cries out, "Long live the most puissant Emperor of Lilliput!" The emperor gives Gulliver the land's highest honor, "Nardac."
Later the emperor requests that Gulliver go back to the enemy's shores and do his best to destroy what is left, turning the empire into a province. Gulliver thinks that this action is going too far and declines the request. Three weeks after Gulliver's victory, an embassy from Blefuscu arrives offering peace, which the emperor accepts.
A few days later Gulliver is awoken at midnight by hundreds of Lilliputians telling him that there is a fire in the empress's chamber in the palace. Gulliver hurries to be of assistance, but he quickly realizes that the thimble-sized buckets he is being passed are not having an affect on the raging fire. Thinking quickly, Gulliver chooses to urinate on the fire, putting it out completely and keeping it from spreading to the rest of the palace.
Gulliver returns to his home, where he awaits word of how the emperor and empress will react to his deed. He shortly learns that the empress feels abhorred.
"Of the Inhabitants of Lilliput; their Learning, Laws and Customs, the Manner of Educating their Children. The Author's way of living in that Country. His Vindication of a great Lady."
Gulliver goes into great detail about what he has learned about the Lilliputians, their customs, and their culture. He tells the reader that everything in Lilliput is proportionate to the Lilliputians' size and that even their eyesight is adjusted so that they can see things closer than Gulliver can.
Gulliver also describes many of Lilliput's laws, telling the reader that dishonesty and false accusations are punished more severely than theft and other terrible things are punished in England. If someone in Lilliput accuses another but is proven to be wrong in the accusation, the accused is punished severely while the falsely accused person is rewarded.
Also, Gulliver tells the reader that children are raised by the state rather than their parents. Different classes learn about different things. The nobility's children, for instance, learn about honor, justice, courage, modesty, clemency, religion, and love of country.
Gulliver ends the chapter by straightening out a falsehood created by Flimnap, who has "always been [his] secret enemy." Gulliver declares that Flimnap's accusation that Gulliver carried on with his wife is completely untrue, which should reestablish the lady's reputation.
"The Author being informed of a Design to accuse him of High-Treason, makes his escape to Blefuscu. His Reception there."
A high member of the court arrives to tell Gulliver that he is being charged with treason. Originally his sentence was to be death, but Redresal has argued successfully to have the sentence lessened to the removal of Gulliver's eyes. The charges Gulliver has been accused of are "making water" in the royal palace, refusing to reduce Blefuscu to a province, aiding the ambassadors of Blefuscu when they came to ask for peace, and planning to visit Blefuscu.
Not wanting to have his eyes put out, Gulliver flees to Blefuscu, where he is warmly received.
"The Author by a lucky Accident, finds means to leave Blefuscu; and, after some Difficulties, returns safe to his Native Country."
While in Blefuscu, Gulliver spies a ship that is the proper size for him to sail in. He spends about a month making repairs, during which time the emperor of Lilliput sends a message demanding that Gulliver be returned so that his sentence can be carried out. The emperor of Blefuscu sends back a message refusing. Gulliver eventually sets sail and is picked up by a merchant ship and returned to his home, where he makes a solid profit showing Lilliputian-sized livestock he has carried home in his pockets.
The contract for Gulliver's freedom proves pointless. He promised in writing to serve the emperor, which he does by capturing the enemy's fleet. But when the emperor asks him to go back and destroy the enemy, Gulliver refuses-and there is nothing the Lilliputians can do to persuade him. The contract, in this case, is completely useless. Power proves more important, and it is fortunate that Gulliver uses his reason to decide how to use his power appropriately. (Again one might consider the implications for England as a colonial power.)
When Gulliver puts out the palace's fire by urinating on it, Swift is doing more than making a joke that one should pee on the problems of the state. A fire is a serious thing. One serious implication is that royalty is ephemeral. The royal palace can catch on fire just like anything else, and when it does, no amount of royal power can put it out, just physics-and the dirty side of nature at that. Gulliver proves the point when everyone under the emperor's power is trying to put out the fire with their tiny buckets, and he realizes the only way to put it out is by urinating. Swift is also showing the reader something about the ridiculous needs of royalty, because even though Gulliver has saved the palace he has done so in a blameworthy manner.
Most of the time in Gulliver's Travels when Gulliver tells the details of a society's ways of living, Swift is satirizing something wrong with English society. This can occur when he describes the society negatively, but it also can occur by demonstrating a difference between the other culture and his own. It is apparent that many of the Lilliputian customs are attractive to Swift. For instance, in Lilliput, lying is a capital offence. We see this again when we meet the Houyhnhnms, the noblest race on Gulliver's journey, who do not understand the concept of saying that which is not true. Swift suggests that lying is worse than several of the blameworthy offences in England.
It is interesting to note that even though lying is seen as a terrible offense in Lilliput, Flimnap tells a huge lie (that Gulliver slept with Flimnap's wife) and gets away with it. Apart from the ludicrous physical implications of a giant having relations with a Lilliputian, the problem here is that the society must be able to enforce its norm against lying for the law to matter. This may also be a commentary on the seeming ability of those in positions of power to get away with breaking the law. When the law comes down unfairly on Gulliver, he has actual rather than statutory power to leave, so he simply leaves Lilliput to live with their enemies.
Gulliver's Travels Essays and Related Content
- Gulliver's Travels: Major Themes
- Gulliver's Travels: Essays
- Gulliver's Travels: E-Text
- Gulliver's Travels: Questions
- Gulliver's Travels: Purchase the Novel and Related Material
- Jonathan Swift: Biography
- Gulliver's Travels Summary
- About Gulliver's Travels
- Character List
- Glossary of Terms
- Major Themes
- Summary and Analysis of Part I, "A Voyage to Lilliput," Chapters I-II
- Summary and Analysis of Part I, Chapters III-IV
- Summary and Analysis of Part I, Chapters V-VIII
- Summary and Analysis of Part II, "A Voyage to Brobdingnag"
- Summary and Analysis of Part III, "A Voyage to Laputa ... and Japan"
- Summary and Analysis of Part IV, "A Voyage to the Country of the Houyhnhnms," Chapters I-VI
- Summary and Analysis of Part IV, Chapters VII-XII
- Important Quotations
- Related Links on Gulliver's Travels
- Suggested Essay Questions
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 1
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 2
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 3
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 4
- Author of ClassicNote and Sources